“Do you know what happens if someone stops us or calls the cops because of the racket you’re making?” I guess I was lucky he hadn’t put me in his patrol car. If he had, he would have been able to blow through lights and stop signs, sirens blaring.
God, I wanted my hands free so I could fight him. I wanted to hurt him. I longed to maim and scar him. I wanted my face to be the last thing he ever saw . . . right before I destroyed him.
“I’m a cop. I show my badge. I flash my gun and we go on our way. All you’re doing is making things harder on yourself.”
He released me with enough force that I cracked my head on the seam where the trunk opened from the car. I felt a warm river of blood start to trickle down the back of my neck.
“You aren’t a cop. You’re a lackey on the take. You’re a sellout and chump. You let some rich guy up on the Hill pull your strings. You’re a puppet and a pawn.” I bit the words out and laughed against the pain and dread that was infiltrating every single cell in my body.
A heavy hand landed on my head and I was shoved back into the trunk. “Well, you’re fucking dead.”
I snorted and screamed, “I’d rather be dead than someone else’s toy to play with.”
He called me some nasty names but his voice drifted away as the car started to back up and continue the journey to my dismal fate. I stopped wiggling and kicking the interior of the trunk. I needed to keep up as much of my strength and energy as I could on the very off chance that I could get away from the guy they brought in to make me talk. I knew the opportunity for escape was slim to none, but I’d never been the kind of girl who was willing to accept the things that were forced upon me. I did not believe in the inevitable. Nothing was certain until it was, and even though I was pretty sure this was the end of the road for me, I wouldn’t give up or give in until my very last breath. I would fight until every single drop of resistance and defiance was dragged out of me. I wasn’t going to make this easy on any of the people who had put me in this position, myself included.
After what could have been hours or minutes later, the car came to a stop. The darkness and ache in my head were playing with my sense of time. I had no idea where I was, but I could hear water and the low, deep signals that came from big carrier ships that were constantly coming in and out of the shipping ports on the edge of the Point. I could smell saltwater and oil, so I figured we were down by the docks.
The older guy muttered something in his nervous voice and the dirty cop held me close—hands skimming over my chest and across the front of my pants—and there was a deafening metal shriek and a whoosh of air as a door was opened. I was forced forward and stumbled to my knees. The impact with the ground dug my teeth into my tongue and made my split head pound. I was jerked back to my feet unceremoniously and my shoulders throbbed in protest. I couldn’t hold back a yelp of discomfort and was startled when I was pushed into a chair. The metal legs dragged across the ground with a deafening screech and I screamed when hands went around my ankles. I kicked and flailed to keep from being tied to the chair but it didn’t do me any good. By the time the gross hood was pulled off of my head, I was trussed up like a Christmas ham and there was no wiggling my way free.
A single, bare light bulb was hanging over my head, and for a minute, I swore I’d stumbled into a Tarantino movie. The Point was bad, dangerous, and ugly. But this, this was a whole different level of depraved and twisted. I couldn’t believe this shit rolled down from the Hill. Maybe Stark was right and it was the guys who made the rules who were really the ones we needed to watch out for, not the guys breaking them.
The rusted, weathered metal door to the gigantic shipping container where I was trapped moaned in protest as it was pulled closed behind two new arrivals. It was so ridiculous that they called Mayor Goddard God for short. The man had nothing really impressive to speak of. He was average height, average build, and had thinning hair. His face was sharp, his nose hooked and slightly beak-like. His eyes were a washed-out blue that shouldn’t be menacing, but I knew what this man was capable of. I knew how little he cared for anyone aside from himself. He looked like a politician, not a monster. Yet somehow, he was both.
The other man looked vaguely familiar. I couldn’t place him off the top of my head, but he moved with the same predatory grace and self-assured swagger like all the men with power in the Point. He moved like he expected people to get out of his way and show him respect without knowing a single thing about him. He was big, had a neatly trimmed beard, and was dressed in a pinstriped suit. His tie was loud and blood red. He had rings on his fingers that sparkled in the dim light and a scar across his throat that looked like someone had recently tried to decapitate him. His fog-colored eyes were cold and assessing as they rolled over me from the top of my head to my bound feet. His mouth pulled down in a frown that would’ve had me taking a step back if I were standing. He was scary in the way only men who killed without conscience could be.
This guy was no joke.
They called him a professional and I could see why. I wasn’t sure what he did, but whatever it was, he was the best at it.
“I told you that what I do only works if the subject hasn’t been touched. If she has grown accustomed to pain, what I do will be less effective and the results are no longer guaranteed.” His voice was sharp and his tone was warning. He moved closer to me and tiny scraps of light from the bare bulb flickered over him. He was far better looking than the guys who had been making my life a living hell for the last two weeks, and I found that incredibly unnerving. Someone that pretty shouldn’t be able to do things so ugly. Brutality wasn’t meant to be beautiful.
“Our friend with the badge tends to get slightly overzealous when she fights back. I warned him to take it easy on her, but the warning may have come a little later than it should have.” Goddard sounded bored. Asshole. Like it was every day he kept a woman against her will and paid someone to bleed information out of her. Remembering Julia, it occurred to me that he did, in fact, torture women on the regular with zero remorse. “He was smart enough not to bring her in the back of a police car. One of those parked down here would have the natives restless.”
The guy with the beard stepped closer to me and slowly started to walk around my chair. His eyes picked apart every bruise and mark that was on my face. I felt his gaze burn at the back of my head. It licked over the trashed, torn skin around the zip ties at my wrists and flicked down to my bound ankles.
I gasped when, wordlessly, he lowered himself behind me and grabbed my hands. I told myself not to move, not to make a single sound, but I couldn’t bite back a whimper of fear and pain. I heard the snick of a blade springing out of a knife and felt the chill of it against my skin. I sobbed in relief and in agony when my hands were suddenly free. Blood rushed to parts of my body that were starved for it and every muscle in my torso started to tingle with sweet relief. The big man in the flashy suit moved in front of me and kneeled down. He looked at me from under heavy brows and the corners of his lips twitched as I watched him warily. He cut my ankles free with the same precision and efficiency that he had used to release my hands and gave me a little wink that no one else could see.
“I’ve never had to tie a woman up in order to get what I wanted from her. Sure, I’ve had a couple beg me to restrain them, but I would say this is overkill.” Before I could form a thought or ask him what he was doing, he slid the handle of his switchblade into my hand and curled my fingers around it. In a voice that was so low only I could hear him, he muttered, “It’s about to get messy in here, babe. Brace yourself the best you can. Hold onto that and run the minute you have a clear shot at the door.”
“I brought you here to get the information I need, not to lecture my men. Your way of extracting the truth might not leave marks, but it is no less violent.” The man spoke like this was just another business transaction, and it made my skin crawl when I realized that’s exactly what it was. My fingers tightened on the knife as the man with the beard climbed to his feet and put his back to me.
He was taking a big risk. I could easily slip that razor-sharp blade right between his ribs and try and fight my way free while he bled out.
“I told you. She was supposed to be untouched and unharmed. I can’t do what I do effectively if your careless thugs already damaged the parts of her that I need to make her talk. I work with the precision of a surgeon. You went in on her like a steamroller.”
The Mayor stiffened and crossed his arms over his chest. I could tell he was unhappy and impatient with the man who had armed me. He wasn’t expecting pushback or concern about my condition. He wasn’t used to anyone defying him, not even a hired killer.
“I wouldn’t think I need to remind you just how much I paid for you to be here.” He was condescending and haughty. It was almost as if what he paid this man to do to me was distasteful, as if he found the entire thing unsavory even though he was the mastermind behind it all. I would never have known who he was if he hadn’t touched his stepdaughter.
“Yeah, I am intimately acquainted with the going rate for torture and punishment. Cruelty has never come cheap. I gotta tell you, it’s not enough. It can never be enough.”